Friday, February 19, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

may kill Cayetano’s
‘drop dead’ plan

The House rejects bill to
repeal the state's civil
service laws

Legislature Directory

By Cragi Gima


Gov. Ben Cayetano's proposal for a "drop dead" provision that would repeal civil service laws next year appears to be suffering a slow death in the Legislature.

The House Labor Committee today killed an administration bill to repeal the civil service laws on June 30, 2000. Instead, it passed a bill to form a task force to review civil service and come up with recommendations to the Legislature before next year's session.

The Cayetano administration had pushed for the "drop dead" provision as a way to set a deadline for action on civil service reform, a priority outlined by the governor in his State of the State address last month.

Yesterday, the administration's lobbyist Charles Toguchi said it was looking at other ways -- perhaps some kind of incentive -- to get the public worker unions and the state to agree on reform.

Today, some House Labor Committee members expressed concerns that the bill calling for a task force did not go far enough to address the problems with the state's civil service system.

Rep. Jim Rath (R, Kailua-Kona) said he was glad a bill is passing, but noted that the Legislature seems to "study things to death".

Noting that other states have reformed civil service, Rath said: "Maybe a 33-cent stamp is in order to ask them how they did it."

But Committee Chairwoman Terry Yoshinaga (D, McCully) said this bill is a first step.

She said the House approach will lead to a modernized civil service system, but won't threaten state workers.

"The governor's proposal is visionary, but such vision cannot be implemented by a sweep of the hand," Yoshinaga said.

"Instead, this bill represents our best efforts to provide our civil servants and the people of Hawaii a fresh start."

And while they voted for it, even Democrats had concerns about the measure.

Vice Chairwoman Iris Catalani (D, Kaneohe) questioned the composition of the task force.

Rep. Tom Okamura (D, Aiea) said the bill should address other areas in need of change like collective bargaining and the state's health plan and retirement system.

"If we don't do that (take a more comprehensive approach), these issues are just going to keep resurfacing year after year," Okamura said.

Yoshinaga noted that there are other bills still alive that deal with the health plan and retirement system and that there is still time to refine the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

She said she wanted to concentrate on civil service now rather than take too broad an approach.

The Senate is also tackling civil service reform: The governor's "drop dead" provision is still alive in that chamber -- but just barely.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Bob Nakata said while his committee passed out a bill with the provision, he has concerns that it would not be legal to end civil service unless the Legislature first replaces it with a merit system.

Senate President Norman Mizuguchi yesterday said he did not think it was appropriate to end civil service without all parties agreeing on the issue.

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